How To Become A Burlesque Queen!

Bold, brash, demure or dazzling – there is a confidence to burlesque that many women adore. I’ve seen burlesque performers hypnotise audiences around the world, from the renowned Parisian Moulin Rouge cabaret house to the smaller scale Hurly Burly Show in London; at Thailand’s money-grabbing Simon Cabaret; at the ‘Rock The Empire’ event performance by Medianoche at W Hotel HK and Dita von Teese at the HK launch of Agent Provocateur.

While I am so blessed with an admiration for this art, I can honestly say that I am only an appreciative fan. I am in no way a dancer or burlesque performer of any kind, nor can I claim to be able to dance in any way whatsoever – which is why it is highly unlikely that you will ever see me dance in any of my media industry jobs or acting roles. Athletically inclined yes – I’m quite comfortable on the aerial stunt wires and maybe I could even learn some gymnastics moves… but dance… no.

So without further ado I list out the observations I’ve made for the basic elements of becoming a burlesque queen. Of course, some of the success tricks I’ve learned from Dita von Teese tie into this, and she’s mentioned many times in this article because she is the best known, but there are many, many other iconic burlesque queens of all shapes and sizes to follow on instagram and see perform.
Here are just the basics from what I’ve noticed as a fan of the art of burlesque.

First things first – I’d recommend following and visiting as many shows and performances as possible. The best way to learn more about this art is to leave any apprehensions at the door and dive right in!

Things you’ll need :

  • Strong personality
  • Love of fashion & flamboyance
  • Sewing ability
  • Creative ideas
  • Steady focus
  • Discipline
  • Stomach for criticism

  • Strong personality
    Burlesque is not an art form for shrinking violets. The true artists of this form have put in their ‘ten thousand hours’  and will refine their art performance after performance, time and time again. This kind of commitment takes guts and determination, especially when surrounded by women who ooze devastating dazzle and pizazz. To survive in this environment a strong personality is a must. And by that I don’t mean a loud or big personality but a strong sense of self as well as self awareness and ability to accept the traits that make you unique and different.
  • Love of fashion & flamboyance
    No burlesque dancer ever lacked in these areas! From creating costumes and entire routines designed to wow audiences, I’ve noticed that the women of burlesque have a keen eye for fashion that flaunts their most fabulous attributes to the best of their ability.
  • Sewing ability
    Burlesque performers take pride in their beautiful costumes and most of them are created themselves. I know of burlesque queens who sew on airplanes, make their own corsets or headpieces and spend hours placing dazzling crystals on their custom-made corsets. Therefore a love of sewing, design and creating is a healthy passion to have if you’re going to take the steps towards becoming a burlesque queen.
  • Creative ideas
    These gorgeous and glamorous performers are also artists – creating their own image with skill and refinement. They have to find inspiration, act upon it and realise their creative vision for each costume and every show. The high level of originality and artistic talent involved to continue to evolve their art requires a keenly creative mind and spirit.
  • Steady focus
    To pursue this path is to commit a lot of time, energy, mental and emotional power and skill to one pursuit. While there are so many aspects of burlesque to love, the commitment it takes to really become a success – in this or any field – demands focus and constant devotion to both the art and personal growth, for nobody – not even Dita von Teese – is born a burlesque queen. Those who are truly diamonds at heart spend years evolving into their thrones, and have the commitment to see it through. As Rose Apodaca highlights the type of steady and unfaltering focus to ones art and goals in the preface of Dita von Teese’s book ‘Your Beauty Mark’ –
    Since I first met the pretty young go-go dancer, then known as Heather but already transforming into Dita, about a quarter century ago, she has wowed the world and her friends with a relentless work ethic. Yes, she did earn that skin and body. When I stayed with her in Paris, after an evening dining out on our favourite cockles and Champagne, she was off the next morning to a local Pilates session before I’d emptied my first cup of tea. She frequents ballets and other classes in cities she travels to the way most visitors do local landmarks.

    Early Dita before her iconic pincurls
  • Discipline
    Dita von Teese herself hits the nail elegantly on the head when she says in her book ‘Your Beauty Mark’ – “in terms of diet, it all comes down to balance and discipline.
    The most globally recognised queen of burlesque does pilates almost every day and sticks to healthy ‘beauty foods’ and green smoothies. With words to admire, she says  –
    I rarely ever eat fast food. I don’t swig soda. I never, ever sit down in front of the TV and polish off a bag of potato chips or a carton of ice cream.
    This kind of discipline is vital for maintaining her flawless skin and physique, and she credits Kimberly Snyder’s detox regimes with keeping her skin clear and allergy free. Dita talks about the discipline of her morning routine in her interview with Vogue, where she says she starts the day with a green smoothie (70 percent greens and 30 percent fruit, as advised in Kimberly Snyder’s book Beauty Detox Foods), and how her look seems high maintenance but has been her everyday routine for twenty years so she can amp up the full glamour in anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour.
    The important point being that it’s been her everyday routine for twenty years!yrxevv2a92yrw
    She has the determination to do what it takes to be the best at her art, though she does feel the same falterings as other mere mortals, saying – “I’m not going to lie. I can think go more pleasurable ways of spending my time than punishing through yet another series of Pilates teasers. I may even be tempted to convince myself that yesterdays gruelling session means that today I can forgo working out altogether…”  And yet she gets up and does it again. And again. Every day.
    That kind of dedication and discipline on all levels is what makes a true burlesque queen.
    “The morning is about a practiced, healthy discipline that I can see the effects of, so I stay true to a routine as best I can.” – Dita12gvhbgzojhecc
  • Stomach for criticism
    And there will be criticism. From many areas, not just from those who don’t understand or accept the art form of burlesque. But as with all things truly creative there will be criticism in some way or form, and I think it’s best to think of critiques as the fire that reveals the sparkle of a diamond. Whether it be with burlesque or life in general, it’s worth remembering that calm waters never made a skilful sailor anytime we are on a long journey to create and enjoy something that makes us truly happy. Follow your bliss, stay true to your art and always strive to improve, and the criticism will resound hollow in the space around your magnificent bubble of fabulousness.

Overall I think there’s an overlying goal to burlesque – something inherently human and soulful, something that I touch on in my post on why beauty matters. There’s a desire and ambition to create something magical, captivating and exaggeratedly feminine; to transfix, even just for a moment in time, the mind on something that is so exquisite that it transcends the normalcy of everyday life and transports us to a world of beauty so tantalising that everything is flawless… just perfect for that moment.
And what a beautiful goal that is.

RG Raven blog signature
Fabulously eccentric actress, TV host, curvaceous model and founder of Hong Kong ’s first luxury corset brand, Pearls & Arsenic.
 I love sharing my passion for all things elegant, beautiful & inspiring. My Dearest Beloved and I live with a fluffy Angora rabbit named Lord Pemberly III, who is a ridiculous snob, and his dwarf-lop bunny brother, The Earl of Tillington.  Find me on IG @RavenTao or FB : Raven Tao ❤

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Raven Tao

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